Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Excuses, Excuses or Silver Lining?

On Saturday night, I indulged in a cheeseburger smothered with catsup, mustard and mayo along with a generous portion of hand cut fries from Cape Cod Burgers and Fries.  This I know, is not a huge confession as eating a cheeseburger and fries should be allowed at least once in a while in any human's diet.  Unfortunately, I really did not enjoy my splurge.  With each bite I felt my jeans getting tighter, my stomach getting more flarpy, my thighs expanding.  Then, just as I was crumpling up the paper evidence and wiping the ketchup off the table, I heard a little voice whisper, "Potatoes have potassium; French fries are good for you."

No, I'm not going crazy. 

Throughout my entire life, I have continually heard such phrases as, "Have some more pie, it's almost all made of fruit." and  "Chocolate is full of antioxidants, especially the dark Dove."  Or what about, "You should really have an ice cream, the calcium is good for your bones."?

I bet you can guess who's mouth has uttered these words.  Yep, the one and only: Val. 

And I'm not the only one who is the recipient of her dietary information.  Our friend Wayne, hair stylist extraordinaire and fabulous guy about town loves it when she sits in his chair.  She always makes him feel better about his habits especially his annual fried clam dinner, a summer tradition.  Val told him that clams are full of iodine, which is important so that he won't grow a goiter.

So what am I to do as a mother who is trying to get her children to eat well, when the kids' grandmother is constantly spewing information that allows them to eat less than ideal choices?  It is not enough to try and ignore it.  Val has a relaxed yet firm style of spreading the propaganda.  And the problem is that there is some amount of truth to all of it; if you decide not to pay attention to the rest of the information such as calorie count, fat content, etc.  That is up to you to research and analyze.  Val only delivers the good news when it comes to dietary downfalls.   I guess I can only blame myself when I succumb to her suggestion that we bring the kids to Smitty's Ice Cream for dinner after a long hot day on the beach.  How can I resist when it's her treat?

Guilt is a horrible feeling and we all should be allowed something out of the "budget" at least once in a while.  I believe this to be true and often employed this very philosophy back when I sold cosmetics in a commission based sales job.  I would honestly tell those customers who were on the fence and looking at me to stop them from adding on that extra lipstick so that they could get a free gift, "I can help you justify any purchase.  You know you are worth it and won't you use this cute bag for your travel items?" 

So, really how can I fault my mother for trying to make others feel o.k. after they have fallen off their strict diets?  Most of us are far too weak not to crumble: I'm talking about way too many scones and clotted cream during my first pregnancy.  "You need to keep your strength up.  Just have a light dinner." 

I feel better already.  Thanks, Val.

Find Smitty's Ice Cream on Facebook

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tarte Magic

The idea was to come home from working and finish writing a new blog post or at least attempt to find some way of linking my old website to this blog or something that would allow me to feel like writing is my actual job instead of a hobby that I only hope to do in whatever sliver of time is left for me.  Well, it didn't happen that way today.  Instead, I had to make magic by creating something out of nothing in the form of a goat cheese tarte among numerous other edibles for a last minute dinner party that I did not plan.


While I was working, I got a text from Rob inquiring if I wanted to go to a friend's for dinner tonight (Friday) or Sunday. Although tonight involves driving Ava to ballet and digging out the weekly papers from the backpacks, I deemed it the best since I am working until about 630pm or 700pm on Sunday and that always disrupts things for the host/hostess.  I also asked that he inform me right away about the final plans so that I could prepare something to bring.  Let's just say, that it ended up that Rob thought it was a good idea to invite this family to our house instead and I ended up yelling at him on the phone as I was driving home from work that he is completely and totally inconsiderate, the house is a mess and what the hell am I going to cook?  You will understand my level of anger and frustration when I tell you that Rob pretty much likes to make plans and just shows up to shove food in his mouth that he did not prepare or even have to think about at all.  Sure, he might help (if asked) by way of vacuuming the floor or emptying the trash but he had absolutely no plan or thought as to how 4 adults and 4 children are going to be fed.  Since I am a firm advocate of  advance planning, this sent me into a tailspin not to mention the fact that I had not yet eaten lunch, it was already 2:00pm and needless to say, I was "hangry".

It clearly doesn't help when others know that I can at any given time and with limited resources, pull something out of my ass for people to eat. (Sorry for the terminology but I feel it offers the best description.)  And I will admit that it's usually pretty tasty even though the meal might have been created out of an old jar of mustard and a few toothpicks. Although I possess such a talent, I should never be put into this situation by anyone else but myself and especially never by my husband who already has to bear the brunt of pretty much all of my wrath as it is.

I unlocked the door and got my thoughts together while rummaging through the refrigerator.  I preheated the oven and dug into my cooking tasks but I continued to pout into the evening until the guests arrived.  Thankfully, I had a little of this and that left over from Val's birthday party a few days before and some chicken drumsticks that I threw into a quick marinade.  (Don't worry I made Rob grill them outside and it was snowing.)  By the time our guests arrived with a beautiful green salad and two bottles of red wine in hand, I had managed to make a lemon bar recipe  I wanted to try http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/berry-lemonade-bars and the following Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tarte.

Perhaps I should not share this recipe I came up with at the last minute as it will just add to my aforementioned "talent".  I know that I should protect myself from future last minute party assaults.  But I know that others have suffered my fate and have stood in the grocery store on the way home from work, fatigue clouding their brain, trying to think up something to feed the hungry mouths waiting at home or worse yet figure out a last minute dish to bring to a dinner party.  For those moments, please see below.  The recipe can be adapted to use whatever you may have in your refrigerator and/or pantry.  For instance, substitute the goat cheese for any grated cheese, change out the olives for leftover cooked vegetable from last night's dinner.  Just make sure to keep a few boxes of puff pastry in your freezer for emergencies that call for yanking something delicious from where the sun doesn't shine.

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tarte
(makes 15 square pieces)
2 onions
2 tablespoons butter

1 box puff pastry (2 sheets)
4 oz. goat cheese
1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 tablespoon chopped chives
dash Tabasco
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
handful chopped black olives
1/4 cup sundried or roasted tomatoes
Preheat the oven according to cooking directions on box of puff pastry.
Slice the onions and add them to a skillet with the butter over medium heat. Cook onions until soft and brown (about 15-20 min.), stirring occasionally.
Place the goat cheese, sour cream and chopped chives in a food processor or Kitchen Aid.  Mix well and add a dash of Tabasco and salt and pepper to taste.
Lay a sheet of parchment paper over a cookie sheet.  Spread out the puff pastry lining up both pieces to fill the cookie sheet.  Trim the puff pastry to fit.  Brush beaten egg onto edges of puff pastry.  Trim excess piece of puff pastry into 1/4" wide pieces and lay onto edges of large square to create a border.  Brush these pieces with egg. Place puff pastry in oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and spread goat cheese mixture inside the puff pastry rectangle  up to but not over the border.  Sprinkle black olives, roasted tomatoes and caramelized onions on top.  Place tarte in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes more until the edges and the bottom are golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Once cool remove tarte from pan by sliding the parchment off the pan.  Slice into squares and serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lemon this and lemon that

Looking over my last few posts, I have come to realize my citrus obsession.  It's not that I think I'm going to become crippled by scurvy anytime soon.  Perhaps citrus reminds me of warm sunny days, the kind I long for when March arrives on the calendar, a teasing reminder that spring is right around the corner but here in New England, that can still mean snowfall and raw, cold days.  As Dick, a former lineman and longtime fisherman who still spends most of his days outdoors, always says, "There is no spring on the Cape!" For those of us who live on Cape Cod year round, we know this to be true.  A bitterly cold April wind can chill you to the bone.  Every mom who waits at baseball practice as the sun goes down on a deceptively warm May day pulls on her winter coat and gloves that she keeps in the trunk of her car along with her beach chair.  If she forgot her sneakers and socks and is stuck with the flip flops she dared to wear during the warm noontime sun, she is swearing to herself and rubbing her freezing cold feet, hoping that the coach will let the kids go home early tonight so that she can finally put on some warm, fuzzy socks.
It's probably because I try and conjure up springtime, coaxing it to come along sooner that it appears to be ready that I have been whipping up lemon this and lemon that, not to mention the cutting up and drying of oranges in my food dehydrator.  I have discovered that the dried oranges add a sweet/sour note when paired with cheddar cheese.  People tend to be a bit timid at first to try them but once they do, all the oranges tend to be quickly devoured and those once timid people feel like they are now adventurous "foodies".

  I managed to keep a few dried orange slices away from the cocktail and hors d'eouvre table and decided instead, to slather them with melted semi-sweet chocolate.  The verdict: sublime with a glass of red wine after dinner and the perfect snack to pack in my lunchbox for when I am trapped at work all day, pining away the boring Cape Cod winter hours when no one is interested in coming out to shop and browse for a t-shirt during a snow storm of which we have had way too many to count (snowstorms, that is). 


While the oranges proved to be a hit, my greatest feat by far this past weekend was the dessert I made for the adults to eat after Declan's birthday dinner on Saturday night.  I say, "the adults" because #1 my kids would likely refuse to even taste something as seemingly exotic as what I am about to describe and #2 they were looking forward to eating the rest of the store bought (don't ask) birthday cake leftover from Declan's bowling/video game party earlier in the day.  By now, many in the know have heard of Gabrielle Hamilton, the author of "Blood, Bones and Butter".  I recently acquired her cookbook based on the recipes she serves in her famous NYC restaurant called "Prune".  I decided that the first recipes I tried would be from the perfectly enchanting chapter: "Lunch Dessert".  I paired her recipe for Buttermilk Panna Cotta with the syrup and candied rind from the Cold Candied Meyer Lemon portion of the recipe as the lemons I used were not Meyer lemons and the pith on them was a little too thick.  It doesn't matter.  The results were out of this world fantastic.  The slight sourness of the buttermilk paired with the sweet/sour/bitter taste of the lemon syrup and rind made everyone's taste buds sing.  The cold, firm yet creamy panna cotta topped with the velvety thick, sticky syrup didn't last in the crystal dessert cups for long as each one of us used our spoons and some (whose manners were a bit lax)  employed their tongues to lick and gobble up the last drops of this simple yet decadent dessert.

I really can't say if I am finished for the time being with my citrus obsession.  Stay Tuned.